‘Fox News Sunday’ on February 20, 2022 – Fox News

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This is a rush transcript of “Fox News Sunday” on February 20, 2022. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I’m Bill Hemmer.

A flurry of diplomacy and the drumbeat of war, the U.S. and its allies holding 11th hour talks. Will Russia invade Ukraine?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As of this moment, I’m convinced he’s made the decision.

HEMMER (on camera): The president calls out Vladimir Putin over unkept promises of a troop drawdown and continued military drills while Vice President Harris meets with heads of state in Munich.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our strength must not be under estimated.

HEMMER: And the secretary defense meeting with U.S. troops in the region as the nation’s top diplomat rushes to the U.N. to win the information war against Moscow.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: I’m here today not to start a war, but to prevent one.

HEMMER: We’ll get the state of play from Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, just back from Eastern Europe with the defense secretary.

And then we’ll get reaction from Senator Ted Cruz, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And we’ll ask our Sunday panel whether there is an off-ramp for Putin.

Plus —

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Cotulla, Texas, in La Salle County. Many of the major political issues that are huge part of what goes on in southwestern Texas run through this town.

HEMMER: The road to the midterms, first up, home of the nation primary.

All, right now, on “FOX News Sunday”.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER (on camera): And hello again on this “FOX News Sunday”.

Fears of war intensified as the standoff between western allies and Russia enters a pivotal phase. The Ukrainian president has called for a meeting with the Russian President Putin, but this week, President Biden said he’s convinced that Putin has decided to invade, a move that would rattle world markets, disrupt global energy supplies, and challenge the international order.

In a moment, we discussed the new assessment with Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, but we begin with team FOX coverage.

Steve Harrigan on the ground in Kyiv where tensions are still high. Mike Tobin in southern Poland, where U.S. troops have been deployed by the thousands.

But first, let’s begin with Mark Meredith at the White House to find out where we are today.

Mark, hello.

MARK MEREDITH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Bill, hello to you.

President Biden says he believes war between Russia and Ukraine is still preventable, but he believes it’s also likely. Still, all weekend-long, we have seen the U.S. and its allies raise to find a diplomatic solution.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MEREDITH (voice-over): With the world on edge, President Biden is pleading with Russian President Vladimir Putin not to invade Ukraine.

BIDEN: Russia can still choose diplomacy. It is not too late to de- escalate and return to the negotiating table.

MEREDITH: On Saturday, Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a similar message in Germany, telling Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a face-to-face meeting the U.S. is ready to respond to Russian aggression.

HARRIS: Any threats to your country, we take seriously, and we have rallied our allies and our partners to speak with one voice.

MEREDITH: But hours later, Zelenskyy implored the U.S. and its allies not to wait any longer to impose sanctions against Russia given Putin’s behavior already.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): But you are telling me that it’s 100 percent the war will start in a couple of days. Then, what are you waiting for?

MEREDITH: A White House official tells FOX the U.S. is already responding by providing Ukraine with massive military aid, also by coordinating global efforts to potentially cripple Russia’s economy. As for the Russians, so far no signs of de-escalation.

On Saturday, Putin himself oversaw military drills which included showcasing his country’s nuclear abilities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MEREDITH (on camera): Later today, President Biden will convene a meeting of his national security team right here at the White House. Then we’re expecting a big meeting later this week when the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, will meet with Russia’s foreign minister in Europe.

Bill, that meeting maybe one of the last chances this administration has to prevent war — Bill.

HEMMER: We’re watching it. Thanks, Mark Meredith at the White House today. Mark, thank you.

I want to turn to Steve Harrigan now live in Kyiv for a look at life under the threat of the invasion.

Steve, hello there.

STEVE HARRIGAN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Bill.

For some people here, the war has already begun.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIGAN (voice-over): Shelling in the east, where Ukrainian shoulders oppose Russian-backed separatists has increased with two Ukrainian soldiers killed Saturday. Separatist leaders ordered an evacuation with a dubious warning that Ukraine, surrounded by 190,000 Russian soldiers, plans to attack.

We are taking enough food for one day, she says. We don’t know when we’ll be back.

The old and the young grab what they can carry and flee by bus and train to Russia, where President Putin promised evacuees $130 each.

Ukraine’s president bristled at the repeated warnings from the U.S. of a Russian invasion.

It means crushing the national currency, he says, money being taken out. Can you live in a kind of country? Can you have stability in that kind of country? No.

Even without an invasion, Ukraine’s economy takes new hits each day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIGAN: Lufthansa has canceled flights to Ukraine and Germany has told its citizens to leave — Bill.

HEMMER: Steve — Steve Harrigan in Kyiv — Steve, thank you.

Let’s turn now to Mike Tobin live in southeastern Poland, where the U.S. military presence there is increasing — Mike.

MIKE TOBIN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: And, Bill, the task of U.S. soldiers in Poland is described as multi-mission capable. It could involve rescuing U.S. citizens in trouble. It could involve manpower at the border in the event of a crush of refugees, and they are combat-ready.

Most of the soldiers from the 82nd Airborne, some of them from the 101st, and they fall under the command of the 18th Airborne Corps.

Given their history in Europe, the mere presence of these paratroopers is intended to send a message that the U.S. stands with its NATO allies.

Here’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin addressing the troops in Poland.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LLOYD AUSTIN, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Whenever we place an American soldier somewhere, it demonstrates our resolve. It demonstrates our commitment to our partners, and so I would say that, you know, you are our greatest ambassadors.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TOBIN: We spent some time yesterday in a border town called (INAUDIBLE). The people there are scared. They believe that if Russia takes Ukraine, that Putin will keep coming for more.

Also in the event that millions of refugees materialize on the border, they don’t believe they can accommodate them — Bill.

HEMMER: Mike Tobin, thank you. Southern Poland, we’ll be back with you throughout the week. Mike, thank you.

Joining us now exclusively, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.

And, Admiral, welcome back here to “FOX News Sunday”.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you very much, Bill. Good to be with you.

HEMMER: You are just back from Eastern Europe, late last night, in fact. Did they believe an invasion is as likely as President Biden does?

KIRBY: The leaders that we met with in Brussels as well as in Lithuania, certainly in Poland, all see the situation the same way we do. They believe that Russia continues to make itself ready for another invasion of Ukraine. They are — they are equally alarmed by it, as we have been.

HEMMER: Okay. A few observations on this.

On Friday, President Biden said he was convinced it would happen. And then late on Saturday, the White House statement that was put out said it could invade.

Now, that language might be slight, but it also might be significant and softer, too. Is it?

KIRBY: Well, look, we’ve been saying for weeks now, Bill, that Mr. Putin continues to add to his capabilities and give himself options and we said it could happen any day. I think we’ve been very consistent about that.

And when you look at what we’re seeing, Bill, when you — and some of this is in plain sight. You can see it through commercial satellite imagery. He continues to, as the secretary said yesterday, uncoil his forces and make them ready to poise — to strike at any moment.

So, I don’t think — I don’t think we’re sort of hammering over individual pieces of rhetoric here. What we’re seeing actually happen is Mr. Putin act on certainly what looks to be very clear intentions to invade Ukraine again.

HEMMER: Let me try it different ways. Zelensky left his country in Saturday from Munich, and then he went home to his country last night without issue. Now, there were fears that if Putin wanted to lock him out of his country, he would have done that. It did not happen.

KIRBY: It’s hard to know —

HEMMER: What does that tell you?

KIRBY: It’s hard to know what Mr. Putin’s thinking on any given moment.

He has a huge array of military forces around Ukraine. He has a lot of options available to him, and I think, you know, we wouldn’t want to, you know, speculate that just because President Zelensky is out of the country for a few hours, that that would be his moment. He has had many moments and he has many moments going forward, Bill. He has options available to him.

One of the options of course, and you mentioned this a little bit earlier in the show, is diplomacy, and we hope that’s the option he chooses when his foreign minister gets to sit down with Secretary Blinken later in the week.

HEMMER: Let me get to that in a moment here, but on the sanctions now. You heard Zelensky, right? I mean, you heard him a moment. He says, if you’re telling me 100 percent it’s going to happen, then what are you waiting for?

KIRBY: Yeah.

HEMMER: Suggesting NATO allies and the United States.

So what are we waiting for?

KIRBY: Look, we’ve said all along that these are going to be crippling sanctions, sanctions the likes of which we have not put in place before. They’re going to be unprecedented. And we mean this as a very strong message to Mr. Putin and as a deterrent.

If you pull the trigger on that deterrent, well then, it doesn’t exist anymore as a deterrent. He has not conducted another invasion in Ukraine yet and we want to get — we still think there’s time to prevent that. So it’s supposed to be a deterrent.

If you — if you punish somebody for something they haven’t done yet, then they might as well just go ahead and do it. So we’re holding that in advance and we’re hoping that that could affect the calculus of Mr. Putin.

HEMMER: I think you said something in the middle of that answer, can you characterize then how much activity there is behind the scenes to give Putin an off-ramp?

KIRBY: There’s been a lot. I mean, you — just to the intro to this piece this morning, Bill, you showed the full court press by this administration to try to find a diplomatic path forward.

And we have made serious proposals. Obviously, we met — we met by the Russians in a reciprocal way, but we’ve made serious proposals about ways that we can change things that we’re doing in Europe to try to address the situation there and to try to address some of Mr. Putin’s concerns. Obviously, some things are clearly off the table, but we’ve made serious proposals, and we want — we want the Russians to respond in kind to that.

HEMMER: OK, what is off the table?

KIRBY: Well, look, we’ve said that the issue of Ukraine’s membership in NATO, that’s an — that’s an issue for Ukraine and for NATO. That is not something that Mr. Putin can simply institute a veto over, or decide for himself. That kind of thing is, again, between the alliance and Ukraine.

HEMMER: Okay. What’s on the table then? What are we — what are we willing to give him?

KIRBY: We have — we have made serious proposals and talked about changing, for instance, the scope and scale of some of our exercises in Europe, being willing to talk about offensive missile capabilities in Europe. We have — we have certainly put forward other proposals to try to convince Mr. Putin that we’re — that we’re serious.

HEMMER: Okay. What has the administration learned from the chaos out of Kabul last August?

KIRBY: Well, we’re still digesting what happened in August, Bill. I suspect that your question is trying to, you know, get at sort of anything we learn from August that we’re trying to apply now. They are two very different circumstances, Bill, and there’s not a lot of parallel between what we’re seeing now in Ukraine and what we see — what we saw in Afghanistan. We were ending a 20 year war there and we were dealing with a massive evacuation of a lot of people, 124,000 in the course of two weeks.

This is not the same situation. This isn’t — this is actually trying to prevent a war from happening. And that’s why, back to your earlier question, all of our administration officials have been out and about trying to find a diplomatic path forward, and at the same time, here at the Department of Defense, shoring up our NATO allies, making sure they know that we’re with them and that our commitment to Article Five, collective self defense, is one we take very seriously.

HEMMER: Okay, let me get back to the question about Secretary Blinken that you mentioned a few moments ago. He is scheduled to meet his counterpart in the coming days.

KIRBY: Yeah.

HEMMER: What would Secretary Blinken say then that he has not already?

KIRBY: Well, I certainly won’t speak for the secretary of state. I work here at the Pentagon.

But I would tell you that I suspect Mr. Blinken will, again, make clear that we are serious about trying to find a diplomatic path forward, that we are serious about wanting to avert a war. And I think he’ll also make it clear that if Russia does this, they do it with diplomatic options left on the table.

They won’t have an excuse that merits any sort of credibility about why they went forward when there was a diplomatic path forward. They will choose this war, and Mr. Putin will be responsible for the casualties and the suffering and the sacrifice, the destruction, that will result — as a result of any kind of military action.

HEMMER: So, Putin — I mean, just this week, they talked about genocide at the U.N. They talked about mass graves. Is there proof of that? Or can you outright deny that?

KIRBY: You have seen over the course of just last week, Bill, these sorts of outrageous claims. I’m not going to get into each and every one of them, but it is absolutely right out of the Russian playbook.

He may be moving X’s and O’s around the field right now militarily, but it seems like he’s using the same old playbook. And I don’t want to make light of this analogy. This isn’t a football game. This is potentially a war and lives are at stake here — tens of thousands of lives are at stake here.

So, we — if you look at some of the things we’ve seen, you can go right back to 2014 and say here he is, he’s claiming that he’s the victim. He’s claiming that Ukraine, incredibly Ukraine, surrounded by more than 150,000 Russian troops, is somehow going to attack Russia. I mean, these are just not credible.

HEMMER: Uh-huh.

One last question here today. Insiders say and they believe that Putin thinks he can buy anyone, and that would include the country of Germany and the pipeline for natural gas that’s been installed.

Now, it must make many Americans wonder, do we care more about this than some Europeans do?

KIRBY: Well, I would tell you — again, not speaking for other European countries. When we were in Brussels, the secretary had a chance to meet with the defense ministers of all our NATO allies. It was apparent to him coming out of there — and he said this publicly — NATO is more united, more resolve, more resolute than he’s ever seen it in his entire military career, and I believe that’s the case. We’re all alarmed by what we are seeing.

HEMMER: But would you — yeah, would you concede it took a while for Germany to come around to that?

KIRBY: Every country has to look at this their own way through their own prism. What I can tell you, though, Bill, is we’ve been sharing information with our allies and partners as we get it in near real-time. We did that again in Brussels this week.

They are seeing the situation the same way we are seeing it. Every country has to decide for themselves how they are going to respond and react.

But I’ll tell you, and look — not just the secretary, I was a naval officer for a long time. I did a lot of NATO exercises and NATO things in my career. I too — I too have never seen the alliance really more unified and resolved.

The one thing that Putin says he doesn’t want is exactly what he’s getting — a very strong, unified NATO on his western flank.

HEMMER: Okay. Admiral Kirby, thank you for your time on this Sunday. Thank you, sir, for being with us today.

KIRBY: Thanks, Bill. Good to be with you.

HEMMER: In a moment, reaction from Texas Senator Ted Cruz of the Foreign Relations Committee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: So, this week the Senate passed a resolution of support for Ukraine, that’s a rare bipartisan move there, but far from the mother of all sanctions bill the senator’s had promised a few weeks back.

Joining us today from Houston, Texas, Senator Ted Cruz.

And, Senator, welcome back to “FOX News Sunday”. It’s good to have you here.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Bill, good morning. Good to be with you.

HEMMER: I want to get to a number of topics.

Let’s start, however, on Ukraine. You just heard my conversation there with Admiral Kirby.

Have we done all we can?

CRUZ: Not remotely. And — and, tragically, Europe is on the verge of war because of the weakness, the fecklessness of — of Joe Biden. You know, I heard a minute ago Admiral Kirby make reference to that the Biden administration, I think he said, quote, we’re still digesting what happened back in August. Joe Biden’s surrender and disastrous retreat from Afghanistan is — is the worst military catastrophe for the United States in decades.

And the consequences — at the time I said, as a result of this incredible weakness, all of our enemies across the globe are looking to Washington, they are taking the measure of the man in the Oval Office. And, as a result, as I said back in August, the chances of Russia invading Ukraine have just risen tenfold, the chances of China invading Taiwan had just risen tenfold. We’re seeing the first of those two shoes dropping today because of Biden’s weakness.

But, Bill, it’s even worse than that. We had in place bipartisan policies to prevent what is happening right now. Specifically, in 2019, I introduced legislation, targeted sanctions directed at the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Nord Stream 2 is the pipeline that Putin is building from Russia to Germany.

The reason he’s building the pipeline is that it skips Ukraine. It goes right around Ukraine. Why? Because the real insurance that Ukraine had against invasion is that Putin has to take his energy, his natural gas, in pipelines that go through Ukraine. Once he builds Nord Stream 2, he no longer has to worry about those pipelines.

In 2019, I authored sanctions, bipartisan sanctions in Congress, they passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. President Trump signed my sanctions legislation into law. And Putin stopped building the pipeline the day President Trump signed those sanctions. That pipeline was dead for over a year until Joe Biden became president and Putin began building that pipeline again on January 24, 2021, four days after Biden was sworn into office. Why? Because he knew what was going to happen — was going to happen, which was that Joe Biden formally waived sanctions on Russia, on Putin, and gave the green light to build Nord Stream 2. That is why we have over 100,000 troops and Russian tanks on the border of Ukraine preparing to invade. That’s why we’re on the brink of war in Europe.

HEMMER: But now, in 2022, this Congress can’t even agree on sanctions. And it is true, the president could go ahead with some sanctions as well on his own. But that to the side.

The White House had been very aggressive in calling out Russian tactics and they’ve done it very publicly, by the day, I would argue. Would you concede that’s worked so far?

CRUZ: No, it hasn’t worked at all. If you look at what the Ukrainians want, they’ve been very explicit. They’ve said two things. They’ve said, number one, if you want to stop a Russian invasion, they’ve asked the United States explicitly, put sanctions on Nord Stream 2, right now, today. Joe Biden could do that this morning. He refuses to do it.

And they said, number two, provide lethal military aid. Give us the weapons to defend ourselves. And — and, you know, I finally — last month I forced a vote in the United States Senate on sanctions on Nord Stream 2. Every single Democrat in the Senate had voted for my sanctions legislation twice previously. But the difference was last time you had a president within and “R” behind his name. Now you’ve got a president with a “D” behind his name.

When we voted, I won a bipartisan majority, a big bipartisan majority, 55- 44. But the Democrats filibustered the bill. They demanded 60 votes, ironically while at the same time they were calling the filibuster Jim Crow racist relic from the past. That same day they were filibustering to protect Russia and Putin, and 44 Democrats gave in to political pressure from the Biden White House. They voted in favor of Russia, against sanctions.

And, explicitly, the president of Poland, the prime minister of Poland, the president of — the president of Ukraine, the prime minister of Ukraine, the president of the Ukrainian parliament, all explicitly said, if you want to stop this invasion, sanctions Nord Stream 2.

HEMMER: OK.

CRUZ: Joe Biden came to Capitol Hill and personally lobbied Democratic senators to vote against Russian sanctions. That’s where we’re facing this invasion.

I’ve got to say, Bill.

HEMMER: Yes.

CRUZ: Joe Biden becoming president is the best thing that ever happened, tragically, for Vladimir Putin.

HEMMER: Well, if there was an invasion, maybe the sanctions talk coms back to Congress.

I want to move to some other topics while I have the time here and I want to do this quickly.

CRUZ: Sure.

HEMMER: On the Durham probe now. This past week the findings suggest that some sort of Internet traffic was exploited to establish this inference and narrative that tied Donald Trump to Russia, either as a candidate or as president.

Andy McCarthy, a prominent conservative legal mind, writes this, quote, did Durham find something worse than Watergate? Not so far.

To the question, is this like the Mueller probe all over again? It is all smoke and no fire?

CRUZ: Well, we have to see what the facts are. But I’ll tell you, the allegations, what Durham filed in a filing in federal court, is deeply concerning. What — what Durham alleged is the federal prosecutors, the special prosecutor, is that a lawyer for the Hillary Clinton campaign conspired with a big tech executive to monitor and spy on Donald Trump. To spy on him at his home, to spy on him at his office, and — and indeed they were spying on the White House itself.

They were spying on a sitting president. That — that is — you know, you and I both remember when — when President Trump said the Democrats are spying on me, and — and the corporate media collectively laughed at him, they mocked at him, they — they — they said, what a ridiculous claim for him to make.

Well, if what — what Special Counsel Durham is alleging is true, that — what — what Donald Trump said was absolutely right. And — and to the extent Hillary Clinton is complicit with this, her campaign is complicit with it, her lawyers are complicit with it, big tech is complicit with it, if this is true, it’s a lot bigger than Watergate. That was a bungled, third-rate burglary. It was wrong. People went to jail for Watergate. And people need to go to jail for this if these allegations are true.

HEMMER: OK.

Two more topics. Two more minutes.

On the Supreme Court. The White House set on Friday it still plans to make an announcement on the nominee by the end of this month, which means, based on the calendar, that could be in a matter of days.

CRUZ: Yes.

HEMMER: The president is on record saying he’s committed to putting forward an African American woman, yet you have firmly disagreed with this idea. At one point you called it offensive. Another point you called it insulting. Does that make you an automatic no on the nominee?

CRUZ: Well, listen, Democrats today believe in racial discrimination. They’re — they’re committed to it as a political proposition. I think it is wrong to stand up and say, we’re going to discriminate — this administration is going to discriminate. What the president said is that only African American women are eligible for this slot. That — that 94 percent of Americans are ineligible. Merrick Garland, whom — whom Barack Obama nominated to the Supreme Court — Merrick Garland was told, sorry, you’re the wrong skin color and wrong gender, you’re not eligible to be considered.

I think our country has such a troubled history on race, we ought to move past discriminating based on race. The way Biden ought to do it is to say, I’m going to look for the best justice, interview a lot of people. And if he happened to nominate a justice who — who was an African American woman, great.

But, you know what, if Fox News put a posting, we’re looking for a new host for “FOX News Sunday” and we will only hire an African American woman or an Hispanic man or a Native American woman, that would be illegal. Nobody else can do what Joe Biden did. And there’s a reason for that. Racial discrimination is wrong.

Now, that being said, when we have a nominee, I’ll consider that nominee on the record. And I’m confident the Senate Judiciary Committee, we will have a vigorous process examining that nominee’s record. And I — what I can tell you right now is, we’re not going to do what the Democrats did with Brett Kavanaugh.

We’re not going to go into the gutter. We’re not going to engage in personal slime at attacks. We’re going to focus on the nominee’s record, on substance and what kind of justice she would make. And that’s the constitutional responsibility of the Senate.

HEMMER: OK. I — I hear a window of consideration in that answer. And we’ll see where that goes.

And tell your dog we’re almost done here, OK, because you’re in Texas, and the Texas primary hits in ten days. It’s the first major vote ahead of the midterms and you’ve endorsed many candidates in other states. You have not endorsed a candidate for attorney general in Texas. One of those candidates, a Republican, is under investigation.

Will you way in before that vote on the 1st of March?

CRUZ: Well, listen, I think there are a lot of good candidates running for attorney general. I’m friends with a number of candidates. They’ve been strong supporters of mine. And — and so that’s a race, as you noted, that I’m staying out of. I’m going to trust the voters of Texas to make a determination. I think there are good people running for that race who are strong conservatives, who — who — who are people of principle, and who I respect.

HEMMER: OK, so no endorsement today?

CRUZ: That — that — that’s right. I’m staying out of that race.

HEMMER: All right.

Senator, thank you for your time today.

CRUZ: Thank you.

HEMMER: In Texas, Ted Cruz. Back — back to your dog. Thank you, sir, for coming on.

In a moment, we’ll bring in our Sunday group on the last-minute talks to stop the potential war and invasion of Ukraine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): When a bomb creator appears in the schoolyard, children have a question, has the world forgotten its mistakes of the 20th century? What attempts at appeasement lead to?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: So that’s the Ukrainian president on Saturday in Munich on the risk of not pushing back against Russian aggression.

Time now for our Sunday group.

Republican strategist Karl Rove, Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin and former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford, Jr.

And welcome to all three of you on this Sunday.

I want to start in Ukraine, and, Jen, I want to start with you.

On Saturday, you know, Zelenskyy, we just saw, flew to Munich and back. He emphasizes they’re not in a state of panic. That was clear from his trip.

Where are we as of this moment today?

JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, based on the reporting that I’ve been doing over the last few days, what we’re seeing, and we heard this from the defense secretary, that the Russian military on the border with Ukraine is basically uncoiling. What does that mean? It means that more than half, at this point, of those forces are now moving into attack positions. That is a significant term in terms of military doctrine. That means that they are gassing up those tanks, they are moving, they have left the barracks, they are living in the fields, and they are just a few miles from the Ukraine border. They have not been given the order to cross the line of departure at this point.

But what we are seeing, and “The Washington Post” is reporting this morning, that the intelligence that led to Biden saying that he believes Putin has taken the decision for an invasion, that that came from intercepted conversations and orders given down to those lower-level troops from — from mid-level commanders. And so what we’re seeing is the battle space being prepared right now for what I’m being told would be a significant invasion. He has the architecture in place for a massive invasion that would include taking Kyiv. And the people — it’s very notable that there’s a National Security Council meeting this afternoon. But from what I’m hearing, there is a great deal of fear that in the coming days this will move forward.

HEMMER: And we’ll see what comes of that meeting at the White House on Sunday.

Karl, I want you to listen to President Biden. A quick clip here from Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As of this moment, I’m convinced he’s made the decision. We have reason to believe that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: How do you think the Biden administration is playing this hand?

KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, as of recently, they’ve been playing it pretty well, I think, in part because the threat of Putin taking Ukraine unifies our allies in Europe. But let’s be honest, Putin is not just looking at what this administration has done recently. He’s looking at the whole frame. Joe Biden was part of an administration that was seen as by Russia as weak, particularly after they moved in 2014 to take the Crimea region of Ukraine. They saw him — saw President Biden, one of his first actions was to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline.

It’s not an accident that in May, after Biden had waived the sanctions on Nord Stream 2, for reasons that are still inexplicable, that Putin went and issued a 20-page paper on the historic unity of Russia and the Ukrainians not only laying claim to Ukraine as being an integral part of Russia, but also suggesting that the Baltics and parts of Poland and Slovakia were also historically Russian and should be reunited.

And then we had, of course, a defense budget where it was 2 percent increase but a 16 percent increase in non-defense spending and the defense budget being heralded as a new weapon against climate. And then, finally, we have the Afghanistan debacle in August. And I think all of these have emboldened Putin. And so doing well recently, but the run-up to this has been — has been very dangerous for us.

HEMMER: And you saw how Kirby answered that question too.

Harold, we saw the markets dive this past week, especially on Thursday into Friday. What are the wider implications of an invasion?

HAROLD FORD, JR., EMPOWERMENT AND INCLUSION CAPITAL CEO AND FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first off, happy Sunday.

I think market implications, military implications, are all on the table. I think we have to put a little of this into perspective. And I’ve heard some this morning try to sort out old political grievances.

I remember being in Congress when we were facing these kind of challenges on a national security stage, united at home. First off, Putin has never accepted the fact that the old USSR lost the Cold War, and he continues to try to revise the outcome. Crimea, Georgia, now now.

Now, we can quarrel about things in the past, but we have to look forward. You — you — you’ve rightly noted with Mr. Kirby on this morning that our NATO partners, the purpose, resolve, and unity is greater than it’s been in 20 years. The president and this team has advanced — has — has — I should say, ordered the advancement of weapons to Ukraine to ensure — or to help them protect themselves. Diplomacy remains on the table. And we have all of the punishing sanctions in place if indeed he does invade.

Now, has it been perfect? No. No lead-up to war is perfect. But I think it’s important as we look at where we are today — Jennifer’s reporting is so critical because if indeed we’ve intercepted this kind of communique against — with the mid-level and upper-level commanders, and it seems that — that — that some sort of invasion is imminent, I think the president’s words today before the Security Counsel will be heard and resonate around the globe.

And it’s clear that Putin’s real, real concern here, Bill, is that he’s losing ground. His relevance, he has to try to assert and inject himself. And what better way than to do this.

I think the real audience — where I agree with — where I agree with Karl wholeheartedly — is that China is — is the audience that our national security — our national security apparatus is probably looking at even more so than they are looking at Putin right now.

HEMMER: OK, let me get back to Admiral Kirby.

And, Jen, listen to the sound byte from our interview a few moment ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KIRBY: The leaders that we met with in Brussels, as well as — as with Lithuania, certainly in Poland, all see the situation the same way we do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Well, it might have taken a while to get there. I think we can all probably admit that.

Behind the scenes, Jen, he also talked about off ramps for Putin and the talks that continue.

What are you hearing about the possibility of that, that would give an off- ramp?

GRIFFIN: Well, Bill, first of all, I would say that I don’t think it did take a long time to get those NATO allies united. I think what is different from last August is that those NATO allies — and I’ve been speaking to many of the top leaders of our strongest allies — and they say that what the Biden administration did this time that they didn’t do last August if they built a very strong alliance, and they have been informing those NATO leaders, including Germany. And, Germany, I would take issue with, has actually been on board.

In terms of off-ramp’s, the off-ramps are very limited at this point. There will be a debate as to whether the secretary of state should actually go ahead with a meeting with Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, slated for next Thursday if, in fact, Putin invades in the coming days, which is expected.

So that is going to be a key point. But what officials have told us is that Russia always loves to talk while they are invading.

I’d also like to take one issue — point of issue with what Karl said. The appeasement of Vladimir Putin goes back far before the Biden administration. If you go back to 2007, Putin, in Munich, at the Munich Security Conference, stated what he planned to do in terms of rebuilding the Soviet Union. Robert Gates was the defense secretary at the time. President Bush, who Karl worked for, was the president. Shortly thereafter, Putin invaded Georgia. The U.S. and NATO did not do anything, did not do anything significant. That began — Putin has been doing this.

And then under President Trump, I remember traveling to NATO headquarters with Secretary Mattis, and that’s when there was a feeling that President Trump was going to pull out of NATO during those four years. That did incredible damage to NATO unity.

Right now what we’re seeing, I think, is a much more unified NATO because they see how very dangerous Vladimir Putin is.

HEMMER: OK. I’m out of time, but, Karl, a quick answer, your name was invoked there, if you would like —

ROVE: Well, with all due respect, the U.S. sent naval assets to the — to the Black Sea. They returned the Iraqi combat brigades from Iraq to bolster the defenses of Georgia, and sent whatever was requested to Shalikashvili to support the Georgian forces. So, with all due respect, yes, he did go into Georgia, but the United States stood strongly behind Georgia, and, as a result, the Russians stopped and there was aid and assistance.

HEMMER: OK. All right.

Panel, time out. Have to take a break.

When we come back, we’ll take you to Texas for a look at the issues shaping the nation’s first primary of 2022.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: We are on the road to the midterms and over the coming weeks, FOX NEWS SUNDAY will bring you on the ground reporting on the nation’s biggest races.

Early voting is already underway in the state of Texas. The nation’s first primary goes down in ten days.

Senior national correspondent Rich Edson looks at the shifting political dominance along the southern Texas border.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RALPH GONZALES (D), JUSTICE OF THE PEACE CANDIDATE: Whoa there. Whoa there.

RICH EDSON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Ralph Gonzales has ridden horses since before he can remember.

GONZALES: I was six-month-old on my dad’s — in my dad’s arms. I have been on a horse ever since.

EDSON: He inherited his love of horses from his father and passed it on.

EDSON (on camera): How much does your son love the rodeo?

GONZALES: It’s — it’s not even a sport, it’s part of life.

EDSON (voice over): He balances raising a teenage son with demanding days working the oil fields of south Texas.

GONZALES: Being a single dad is hard. Being a single father in the oil field is harder.

EDSON: Life in the oil fields has changed over the decades, and Gonzales says so have politics.

GONZALES: Everybody would sit at a table, and it was a democratic conversation. It’s not like that anymore.

EDSON: For generations, south Texas has been the large blue patch on a mostly red electoral map. But with then President Trump atop their ticket in 2020 —

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: In the great state of Texas.

EDSON: Republicans gained ground across the region, evidence they say they can flip two House seats here. The region typically elects more moderate Democrats, like longtime Congressman Henry Cuellar, who publicly challenges his party’s leaders, especially on border security and energy.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): This right here is the battleground.

EDSON: Progressive Democrats see an opening too.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: This is about making sure that any blue just won’t do.

EDSON: Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other national progressives are backing a more liberal Democrat here. A Cuellar campaign officials say progressives coming from out of state to campaign against a fellow Democrat is ridiculous.

JESSICA CISNEROS (ph): The incumbent was voting with Trump 70 percent of the time.

EDSON: Jessica Cisneros came within four points of unseating Cuellar in 2020. This year she’s back at it, challenging him from the left.

From the right, several Republicans have jumped into primaries in longtime Democratic districts, including Cuellar’s. Across south Texas, President Biden perform significantly worse than his Democratic predecessors. Some counties even voted Republican for the first time in a century.

SANDRA WHITTEN (R), U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: This is the park that my kids play baseball end.

EDSON: Republican Sandra Witten says border security motivated her to run for office.

WHITTEN: I watched cartel run through my kids games or practices.

CASSIE GARCIA (R), U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: And we’re seeing more Republicans and Democrats switch over to the Republican Party because we are the party of faith and family and freedom. We want a secure border. It’s pro-law-enforcement, we’re pro-life.

EDSON: Cassie Garcia is another Republican running of the primary for a chance to challenge Cuellar in November. The National Border Patrol Council just endorsed her after years of backing Cuellar.

HECTOR GARZA, NATIONAL BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: In the last primary, we did endorse Congressman Cuellar. There’s a variety of topics that we’ve seen that Cassie Garcia can stand behind where Congressman Cuellar will not.

EDSON: The FBI recently rated Cuellar’s home. His campaign insists investigators will find no wrongdoing.

John Villarreal Rigney is running in the Democratic primary for a Rio Grande Valley district that nearly went Republican in 2020.

JOHN VILLARREAL RIGNEY (D), U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I think that the old blue dog Democrats are still going to be in control of this area. We’re still going to honor the traditions and the values of this area.

EDSON (on camera): Do you think that they’re — among some Democrats here – – there’s a desire to nominate more liberal candidates?

RIGNEY: We’re raised in the Catholic church. We’re raised with traditional Hispanic values. And I think that that tradition and those values have continued to show themselves and it’s going to continue to bring out the voters and we’re going to stay a conservative, Democratic district.

EDSON (voice over): Combined, the House seats have dozens of candidates competing to be on the November ticket, and voters say they’re listening.

MONICO RODRIGUEZ, SOUTH TEXAS VOTER: It’s not about Democrat or Republican, it’s about who speaks to you about solving problems that you’re dealing with.

EDSON (on camera): This is Cotulla, Texas, in La Salle County. About 90 miles southwest of San Antonio. Many of the major political issues that are a huge part of what goes on in southwestern Texas run through this town. A lot of its economy, that has to do with oil and gas, and that’s an industry that has grown significantly over the past several years. But it’s also ranching. And for that, ranchers say border issues are of a major concern.

MARCUS CANALIS (ph), TEXAS RANCHER: Sorry, but somebody needs to grow up.

EDSON: Marcus and Stephanie Canalis (ph) are ranchers who say the border search is causing migrants to cross their land more frequently than ever. Sometimes in stolen vehicles that destroy their property.

M. CANALIS: We all run cattle. So, our biggest fear is that, you know, they bust through the fences, our cows get out.

EDSON: Ranchers like them are spending more time fixing fences, and hoping national leaders address this surge.

M. CANALIS: Huge difference.

STEPHANIE CANALIS, TEXAS RANCHER: We really wish that somebody would be in office that — that would take a stand.

M. CANALIS: That actually cared.

S. CANALIS: Right.

M. CANALIS: Take a stand and care for the ranchers and farmers.

EDSON: Gonzalez says he’s taking his own stand in his community. He’s running for justice of the peace.

GONZALEZ: Here in Cotulla, because of the way it works, I had to run with the Democratic Party. Doesn’t necessarily mean that all my views are Democratic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: Rich Edson reporting from southern Texas.

And now we are back with the panel.

Karl, you know this area quite well. What is happening in Texas, and is there evidence of a trend elsewhere?

ROVE: Well, all you need to look is at the difference between the presidential vote in 2016 and the presidential vote in 2020 to see that there’s a huge shift going on in this part of Texas. The further west you get from the — from the Gulf of Mexico, along the Rio Grande River, the bigger the shift. And that’s because you’re getting deeper into energy country. So you’ve got a Democrat — former Democrat truck driver who’s making $110,000 a year because he’s got a CDL license, and his wife is doing pretty well with the cafe in Uvaldi (ph) because there’s a lot of — you know, there are a lot of oil field people coming in and having lunch and leaving a nice tip. And suddenly you have the Democrats saying, you know, geez, the green new deal is terrific, let’s end the reliance on hydrocarbons.

And then you take the border, you take conservative values, you take respect for law enforcement, that includes the Border Patrol. There are a lot of people in south Texas who have a family member in the Border Patrol. And then you look at growing concern about farming and ranching and you’ve got an explosive combination here.

We are likely to see two very competitive, congressional races in the fall, in south Texas, in which the likely Republican candidates are Latinos. And that says something about the changing nature of south Texas.

HEMMER: OK. Hang on.

Harold, how concerned should Democrats be when you see stories like this?

FORD: We should — we should have serious concern. I think the — the issues of crime and Covid, inflation and the border, Democrats have to figure out how to meet voters, everyday voters, many voters that you had there in the package there with Rich, and not get out in front of them but walk alongside of them. I would argue the body politic is stronger — I’m a blue dog Democrat — when you can have an honest and open debate within the party about where we go, but that debate should be centered around responding to people’s needs.

I would argue that this debate is not only happening, Bill, in the Democratic Party. You see it in Wyoming in the Liz Cheney race and you even see it in Texas, in the Bush-Paxton race. The body politic is strengthened when you actually have a robust debate and you, more importantly, respond to people. Whichever party is able to address the CCIB, crime, Covid, inflation, and border, and meet parents where they are, that will be the party that wins the majority in November and the party that wins the White House in ’24.

HEMMER: OK, I have about three minutes left here. I want to get an answer from all three of you on this, and that is the San Francisco school board vote.

Something happened this week that’s extremely rare. And so our viewers know, a recall vote was held after three members on the school board were – – they were all kicked off by an overwhelming margin. More than 70 percent of the people who live in San Francisco voted against them.

Now, this is a district represented by Nancy Pelosi. Eighty-five percent of the voters went with Democrats in 2020.

And, Jen, this seems to be — seems to be a Covid vote. Schools are closed for a year. Parents are saying enough is enough. As a mother yourself, how do you see the importance of this issue next November?

GRIFFIN: Oh, I think you can’t underestimate the issue of schools and how it is awakening an angry voting base. We saw it in Virginia with the Glenn Youngkin vote. Parents are fed up. You see the Loudoun County school board meetings. But San Francisco was very interesting, because what happened, this was organized to remove three members of the board who had tried to pull in a certain direction that it was Democrats who removed them. And what was significant is that it awakened the Asian vote in San Francisco because they took away meritocracy for their most prominent high school. They turned that into a lottery, and that’s where many of those Asian kids went to school.

HEMMER: Yes.

Yes, Karl, remember when the schools were closed, that board voted to rename 44 schools and take off names like Washington and Lincoln. In the end, it didn’t happen. “Politico” put it this way, quote, it’s not the renaming effort itself that was so potent, it was the board spending hours on the exercise while schools sat empty and students suffered, end quote.

They might be right, but it’s probably both and then some, Karl.

ROVE: I think it’s both. Yes, I think it’s both. And I think Jen’s put her finger on it. It’s a combination of things. We saw this also in northern Virginia, where there was an attempt to take a magnet school that chose students on the basis of academic qualifications, and turn it into a, you know, in essence a lottery because there were too many Asian American kids who were getting into the school.

So I think we’re likely to see this repeated across the country. And Democrats are going to have a real problem because this is not going to just be a national issue. There are going to be lots of people working at the state and local level running from legislature who are going to be talking about things like no mask mandates and curriculum transparency and upholding schools of excellence and meritocracy. This issue is going to be repeated across the country.

HEMMER: Harold, “The Wall Street Journal” was more succinct, writing in their editorial page this, if it can happen in San Francisco of all places, Democrats should be worried. The woke may wake up to a far bigger shock in November.

Virginia was mentioned twice, once with Jen and once with Karl there were Republicans swept the state less than three months ago.

Are the voters already ahead of the politicians?

FORD: The voters are always ahead of the politicians and that’s why the results change so frequently and rapidly year after year. Extremism can be rejected in San Francisco by Democrats. I hope it happens more. And extremism is rejected by Republicans and Democrats alike when anybody goes off the deep end. Lowell High School, which Jennifer referenced there, is the high school there in San Francisco where the lottery is being — instead of meritocracy, being replaced. Parents are standing up and politicians would be well, well advised to listen to them.

HEMMER: Yes.

Let’s leave it there.

Thank you, panel. Nice to see all three of you. And we will see you again on the next FOX NEWS SUNDAY there. Thank you.

In a moment, a final word on the week ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: That’s it for this Sunday. I’m Bill Hemmer. Stay with the Fox News Channel and your local Fox station for the latest on the tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

And you can join Dana Perino and me on “AMERICA’S NEWSROOM” Monday through Friday at 9:00 Eastern on the Fox News Channel.

Have a great week, a terrific Sunday, and we will see you on the next FOX NEWS SUNDAY.

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